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Should I Continue Using CPAP When I Have a Cold?

With cold and flu season fast approaching, you may be wondering whether you should keep using your CPAP machine when you have a cold and are stuck with the sneezes and sniffles.

The answer is not quite as simple as it might seem.

Does a Cold Interfere With CPAP?

Having a cold can make it more difficult to use your CPAP machine if you have a nasal mask. Your nasal congestion can make it hard to breathe. If your CPAP tends to cause mild congestion anyway, add these two things together and now your symptoms are a lot worse. This can result in you not getting any sleep, which is not conducive to anything, especially not getting over a seasonal illness.

On an ickier note, you can build up mucus on the inside of your CPAP mask, especially if you use nasal pillows. Finally, CPAP can sometimes make coughing worse. Because of this, many doctors do recommend not using your CPAP until you feel better. 

However, this does not necessarily mean you should ever entirely stop your CPAP therapy.

Why You Should Continue CPAP Therapy When You Have a Cold

Some people find CPAP actually helps relieve minor cold symptoms. Lack of sleep can also slow your recovery from a cold, although as already mentioned, some people find they can’t win in this situation. Also, it’s generally not recommended to take a break from CPAP for more than a few nights. Because of this, many doctors do recommend continuing to use your CPAP.

Full Face CPAP Masks Can Help When You’re Sick

If you have a full face CPAP mask, use it until you feel better, but clean it frequently to prevent mucus contamination. Some people have also found putting a bit of vapor rub under the CPAP mask (but not in the nose) helps by clearing your sinuses and increasing the airflow. If you don’t typically use a full face mask, then consider getting one and using it during the winter months when cold and flu season strikes hardest. It may also be a good idea to use one at times when you have seasonal allergies, which can also cause congestion.

Cleaning Your CPAP Mask is Even More Important When You Have a Cold

Make sure to follow all of the cleaning instructions for your CPAP with particular attention during cold and flu season.

The Lowdown

Ultimately, there’s no simple answer that everyone agrees on to whether you should use your CPAP machine when you have a cold. If in doubt, you should talk to your sleep specialist. Folks with more severe sleep apnea should definitely try their best to continue the therapy even if they are under the weather.

If things are borderline, then you can always try the machine anyway. If it makes you feel worse, then take a break from CPAP. If it makes you feel better, keep using it. However, if you do use your CPAP machine when you have a cold, it is more likely to become contaminated and you should clean the mask and tube every single day to avoid increasing your risk of a secondary infection.

Again, if in doubt, reach out. You might want to talk about the issue in general and get a good baseline as to when you should consider taking a break from using your CPAP machine, if at all.

The most important thing is to do what helps you get the best quality sleep, and that might vary from person to person and also depend on what cold symptoms you have at a given time. Also, consider buying a full face mask and getting one fitted even if you normally prefer to use a nasal CPAP mask

We are available by phone at 866-406-1978, email at sleeptight@cpaprx.com, or you can even Live Chat with us right on the website. Our Board-Certified Sleep Specialists are ready to help you find the right mask, address your cold, flu, and seasonal allergy concerns, or get you started on your Sleep Apnea Treatment Journey

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